Workers in Missouri are entitled to benefits when they're injured on the job or are made ill due to on-the-job exposure to a harmful environment.
When an employee files a workers' compensation claim, he's also protected by law from being fired, reassigned, demoted, or discriminated against in any other way because of the claim.
However, this protection is about to get weaker as amendments to the state’s workers’ compensation laws have passed the state legislature and are expected to be signed by the governor.
Discrimination Will Become Harder to Prove in Missouri
Currently under Missouri law, if an employee believes he's been discriminated against because he filed a workers’ comp claim, he only has to prove that his filing of a claim was a “contributing factor” to the act of discrimination.
For example, if a worker is injured on the job, files a claim, and is later fired, the worker has to show that his action of filing a claim contributed to his employer’s decision to fire him. There may have been other factors—such as downsizing his department, poor job performance, or chronic lateness—but as long as there's evidence that filing the claim was also a factor, he would have a legitimate case for discrimination.
However, under the new amendment, workers have to meet a higher burden of proof. They'll need to prove that filing a workers’ compensation claim was the “motivating factor” for their firing. This means that if the employer can produce evidence of any other factors that led to the firing—such as absenteeism, lack of productivity, or poor performance reviews—the discrimination claim is unlikely to hold up in court.
According to the amendment, motivating factor “shall mean that the employee’s exercise of his or her rights under this chapter actually played a role in the discharge or discrimination and had a determinative influence on the discharge or discrimination.” Under this new burden of proof, it's unlikely that an employer would take action against an employee without being able to provide reasons for the firing.
Employers Are Protected, What About Workers?
If you believe you were fired because you filed a workers’ comp claim, you'll need a legal team experienced in workers’ comp discrimination on your side, especially once this new burden of proof goes into effect.
Nothing should prevent you from filing for benefits when you're injured at work. Employers in Missouri are required by law to carry workers’ comp insurance and you're entitled to file a claim against it when you're injured or become ill at work. You're entitled to the following benefits:
- Medical treatment. Your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company should cover all costs related to treatment of the injury you suffered at work.
- Disability payments. Workers’ comp insurance also provides partial compensation for lost wages if you're temporarily unable to work due to your injury or illness.
- Permanent disability. If the injury results in permanent impairment or restrictions, you'll be offered a settlement based on the significance of the disability.
- Vocational rehabilitation. If the injury prevents you from continuing in the same line of work, you should receive benefits to cover retraining or placement in another department or field.
These benefits should be granted to you without question once it's proven that your injury occurred on the job or was the result of an environmental exposure in the workplace. Sometimes, employers are concerned about their insurance rates going up when employees file claims, and try to prevent or deny claims to save themselves money. This is against the law and, no matter what the burden of proof is, shouldn't be tolerated.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at work on the job in Kansas City you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.